Golf: Chapman the very nearly man

Tim Glover talks to the millionaire determined not to feel `second best' anymore
Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONE of the harshest rules of golf is that people don't remember who finishes second. It's true. Who was the runner-up when Tiger Woods walked away with the Masters last year? Precisely. Frankly, nobody gives a damn.

There are one or two exceptions. Doug Sanders is still remembered for losing to Jack Nicklaus in the Open at St Andrews, and then there is Roger Chapman. Silver, not gold, has been Chapman's colour.

He has been second on 11 occasions. Once or twice might be considered unfortunate, but 11?

Chapman has been a member of the European Tour since 1981. He has played in 422 tournaments, winning sufficient money to make him a member of the tour's "Millionaires' Club". But his nostrils have yet to be assaulted by the sweet smell of success, the adrenalin surging, gut-wrenching, "Jesus Christ, I've done it" sensation.

"When I win," Chapman said, "there's going to be one hell of a party. It's taken 17 years to organise. It's going to happen and when it does, I'll win again. As long as I have that feeling, I'm sure I'm going to do it. If you think you're just making up the numbers, then you're gone."

A few years ago, Chapman was all but gone. Nick Faldo had introduced him to fly-fishing and he was more successful at that than golf. "I wasn't enjoying the game at all." Without arriving, the journeyman felt he had reached the end of the road. And then he talked to Chris Linstead, a sports psychologist who runs a martial arts club in Maidstone.

"I met him at Wentworth," Chapman recalled, "and he said he could help me. I said I needed help. I was slumped in a chair and asked me to walk out to the front door and back again. He asked me how I felt and I replied, `a bit daft'. I slumped back into the chair. He asked me to go out again and this time imagine I was the No 1 in the world. I stopped slumping. He asked me which person I'd rather be, the one who looked like a loser or the one who felt like a winner. We talked for about three hours and that day changed me."

Last season, Chapman came close to making the Ryder Cup team. He was in the top 10 on five occasions, second in Morocco and third in the Dutch Open. When he's not speaking to Linstead on the phone, Chapman, who is 30 under par in his last eight rounds this season, consults a Filofax containing "motivational" words.

Linstead's cv includes Bernard Gallacher and the 1995 Ryder Cup team, Kent CCC and the Kent golfer Peter Mitchell. Before Mitchell won the Portuguese Open in March he had worked with Linstead on staying focused. "He had to read a newspaper out loud, enunciating every word while listening to blaring music that he didn't like through headphones," Linstead said. "The object of the exercise is that when he's on the course, he's able to shut out all the noise. It's the strong-minded person who always wins."

Golfers are notoriously vulnerable souls who would employ a gypsy fortune- teller to carry their bag and Uri Geller to bend their clubs if they thought it gave them a chance of scoring a three instead of four.

"I'm not a genius," Linstead said, "but I can relate to people's problems. Only they're not problems, they're simply challenges. When I met Roger he was in a deep negative spiral and I wanted to grab hold of him and shake him. I think he saw me as a desperate resort.

"In many respects he is like an old-fashioned gentleman. Why should be have been depressed? He has a swing that others would die for, a lovely family and he travels the world playing golf. He's enjoying it again and when you're having fun doing something, you'll always be more successful. In the gym, if anybody says `can't', they'd better duck because I'll throw something at them. `Try' is another pathetic word. You either do something or you don't. You've got to be a bit like a card-player and not give too much away. When I watch players I can tell what they've scored without looking at the board."

During his career, Chapman, who has a clothing deal with Harlequins RFC (now there's a suitable case for treatment) has either dropped bouquets or had them intercepted. "I don't think I've been frightened to win, but I've not had the killer punch. The great players produce a fantastic shot when needed. I've had some taken away from me, I've thrown some away and I've lost a couple of play-offs. I wouldn't say I'm unlucky. If I don't win I'd have made a nice living but I would be a failure."

Chapman, who will be reunited with Linstead at the Benson & Hedges International at The Oxfordshire this week, was 39 last week. In 1979, he won the English Amateur Championship before beating Hal Sutton twice in the 1981 Walker Cup. That year he was runner-up to Gordon Brand Jnr at Qualifying School.

There is always the example of Carl Mason, who gained his maiden win in his 455th European tournament, and the memory of a solitary pro victory - the Zimbabwe Open in 1988. That one had his name written all over it. It was played at the Chapman Golf Club in Harare.

Chapman's lot

Vital statistics

Born: 1.5.59, Nakuru, Kenya.

Residence: Windlesham, Surrey.

Height: 6ft. Weight: 13st.

Interests: Fly-fishing, rugby union.

Turned pro: 1981.


(since 1988)

1988 Rank: 17th; Stroke average: 71.44; Prize money: pounds 101.752. 1989 31; 71.8; pounds 98,969. 1990 27; 71.9; pounds 117,968. 1991 40; 72.92; pounds 108,733. 1992 60; 71.91; pounds 88,923. 1993 48; 72.04; pounds 133,149. 1994 113; 72.2; pounds 49,953. 1995 49; 71.97; pounds 123,339. 1996 38; 72.03; pounds 159,929. 1997 32; 71.04; pounds 182,976.